Any legitimate contractor who performs good work and has a positive history will be able to provide you with references from previously satisfied customers. Call or e-mail them to ask them how their experience was, and would they recommend the contractor to others.
2. State Licenses
Depending on the type of work being performed at your home, most contractors, no matter what trade they are involved in will need to possess a valid State or County license. Ask for the number and call the appropriate State/County Board for verification of the license to make sure it is valid. A lot of people promote themselves as licensed, but not everyone is, and they are hoping you will not follow through and check on the validity of their license. If the contractor does not wish to provide you with their license number I would be very wary of doing business with them.
3. Suitable Experience
If you are building a completely separate addition to your home, make sure your contractor has the appropriate experience and has performed similar projects in the past. You don’t want to be hiring a concrete contractor to do all of the work, since their level of expertise will be limited to forming and pouring concrete slabs, not vertical construction. An ideal contractor will be someone who has experience managing all phases of construction from foundation, to roof, to interior finishes. Of course, if you are just looking to have your house painted, then a painting contractor will be sufficient to perform this kind of work on your home.
4. Materials List
Any quote you receive from a contractor should include a fairly detailed material list, but it does certainly depend on the scope and complexity of services being performed. The list of materials provided by someone adding a deck to your home is going to be vastly different than a contractor adding an additional room, or finishing out a basement. In each case you should still make sure you receive an overview of the materials being provided.
In the case of adding gutters to your home, you will want to see listed the style of gutter being used, the material it is made of, the color, how many downspouts are included and the approximate length being installed. Make sure both you and the contractor sign off on the list of materials being used on the project. This will prevent your expectations being out of line with that of your contractors, and make for a much smoother transaction.
This is a big one and definitely needs to be addressed in a satisfactory manner. Ask your contractor for proof of liability insurance and workman’s compensation insurance. Liability is an absolute must for every contractor, and you do not want anyone performing any kind of work on your house without it. Workman’s compensation insurance can be a gray area because certain small businesses that do not employ anyone else asides from the principals of the business generally do not need to carry this type of insurance since they are exempt. You can use your own discretion on workman’s comp insurance since you will know what sort of size the contractor’s business is, and whether you should demand it or not.
6. Up Front Deposits
Depending on the size and scope of your project, the contractor may ask for an up front payment before performing any work. Be very careful not to pay too much in advance before any work has been performed. 10% is usually enough money to bind the contract and show your commitment to a contractor. The remainder of the 90% should be disbursed throughout the duration of the project, which again will depend on the size of the project and monetary value involved. If the contractor has to make some heavy investment in materials for your project then expect staggered stage payments. As an example, after you have paid your 10% deposit, it is not unusual to have three further payments that might be: 2nd payment equal to 40% of the remaining balance, 3rd payment of 40%, and final 10% payment once all parties are satisfied with the work.
Whether you are planning a major addition for a growing family or simply getting new gutters put on your home, finding a competent and reliable contractor is the first step to a successful and satisfying home improvement project.